Background: Infants who are exclusively breastfed receive natural protection against some infectious agents. This study examined whether there was protective effect of exclusive breastfeeding on the occurrence of hand, foot and mouth disease, which was an emerging infectious disease among children in China.
Methods: A community-based case-control study was carried out among children age 4 years or younger in Guangdong Province, China. Cases were newly diagnosed hand, foot and mouth disease. Controls were randomly sampled from healthy children from the nearby village. Unconditional logistic regression model was used to estimate the odds ratio (OR) for exclusive breastfeeding after adjusting for potential confounding factors.
Results: A total of 316 cases and 566 controls were included in the analysis. Significantly beneficial effect of exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months was observed for hand, foot and mouth disease occurrence. The overall OR was 0.63 (95% CI: 0.47-0.85) for exclusive breastfeeding compared with mixed feeding type. The age-specific analyses indicated that the protective effect persisted till the age of 28 months.
Conclusions: This study suggests that exclusive breastfeeding might have protective effect against HFMD infection among the children within 28 months of age.